How does Peer Pressure affect your teenager?
Adolescents often have several groups and layers of friendships. They may have a couple of close friends, different larger groups of friends with common interests, and friends who come in and out of their lives. Friendships during the teenage years tend to be fluid and changing over time. Teens most often choose to spend time with others of the same age and background and select friends from the same ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status.
Peer friendships can provide some of the most healthy and happy experiences for a teenager. Strong peer-to-peer relationships help teens develop important skills of communication and compromise. In a positive environment, adolescent friendships can be one of the most important developmental experiences in your child’s life.
Unfortunately, situations exist where peer influence and peer pressure can lead a teenager to choose unhealthy and unsafe behaviors. In these cases, parents want to help guide their child to make positive choices. Some effective strategies recommended by adolescent development experts Dr. B. Bradford Brown and Dr. Laurence Steinberg are:
1. Nurture your child’s self-esteem. An adolescent with a positive self-concept and strong since of self worth is less likely to be influenced by outside influences.
2. Encourage your child to form positive relationships with other adults. These relationships can help a teen learn good models for healthy relationships. Encourage your child to spend time with a teacher, counselor, or relative who you believe who be a positive mentor to your child.
3. Encourage diverse relationships. Parents who model diverse friend relationships in their own lives help teens learn to do the same. Encourage your child to create friendships across ethnic, gender, and socio-economic or religious lines.
4. Teach your child specific skills to make good decisions and resist negative behaviors. Adolescents need to be taught methods to properly analyze a situation first, and then make a decision. The most basic concept is the cost vs. benefits analysis. Teach your child to evaluate the positive outcomes with the negative outcomes of several possible scenarios. Be specific with respect to consequences for behaviors.
5. Teach your teen exit strategies and ways to say “no” to negative pressures. Preparing your teen in advance for ways to deal with specific circumstances will help when they are faced with a “real life” situation. Role-play examples of common peer pressure moments such as being offered alcohol or drugs. Help your child prepare positive responses that are comfortable for them.
Remember, peer relationships can be one of the best experiences for your child’s healthy development. Following the above recommendations will put your child in the best possible position to avoid negative influence and make positive choices.
For more detailed information on the above, consult the following sources:
Brown, B. B. (2004). Adolescents’ relationships with peers. In R. M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 363-394). New York: Wiley.
Friendships, cliques, and crowds. In G. R. Steinberg, L. (2005). Adolescence. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.